By Guest Blogger, Mary Schmidt, Marketing Troubleshooter
Here in blogville, we often read, write, talk about technology companies' (and tech employees') condescending attitude towards women. Us simple-minded creatures can't possibly understand all those geeky details!
However, the problem isn't just a feminine one. Men ("No, we're not stopping for directions"), bless 'em - just won't admit they have a problem. They nod sagely as the Apple guy talks cache, encryption, back-up, IP addresses, Wi-Fi, and all the rest. We women, on the other hand, are generally madly multi-tasking and need simple, fast and easy.
My big accomplishment for this week was setting up my home wireless network between my iMac and my Macbook. Now, I love Apple and think the computers are almost worth the premium price for the super easy "drag and drop" function alone. (And the camera comes in handy too.)
However, like most technology companies - their "help" function and documentation leaves a lot to be desired. Now, I'm not a stupid woman and I've worked in "high-tech" for years. In fact, I've written and taught technical training classes, from telecommunications to data networking. But, getting my "simple" network up and running took about an hour longer than it should have (and that I had to spend). And I'm still not sure exactly how I got it all working. I even called my tech geek buddy, Bruce, and he went online and pulled documents he thought could help. (Uh No. I've already done those steps.) Crucial steps were missing in the "how to" ...and the "help" search function is awful; it's mostly written either for people who know absolutely nothing...or a super geek. No in-between.
The problem is two-fold:
Most documentation (when it even exists) is initially drafted by the person who designed the software or product. He or she inherently knows things that customers - no matter how smart - don't. So, crucial "little" steps are left out.
Tech companies assume we're as enamored of the product as they are. Well, I love Apple, but I don't have time to learn all the itsy-bitsy details, sorry. That's like going to driving school and being handed parts and being told to build the engine.
So, please Apple (and everyone else) - keep it simple, I'm busy. Even I wanted to learn the deep dark bits and bytes, I DO NOT HAVE TIME. (Yes, I'm shouting. Hello? Anyone listening?)
1. Step-by-step instructions, written in plain English. Give the product to someone other than the developer and have him or her write the documentation. Have the techie available if the non-techie gets stuck. (You'll also likely find some new bugs that way. Customers use your products in ways the developer never anticipated.)
2. Make sure documentation is easy to search and readily accessible, in multiple formats. If I'm having a problem getting online, having all the "help" online doesn't do me any good (and makes me very cranky.)
Lastly, remember that for every customer or user that complains or "just doesn't get it" - there are about 100 others who don't speak up (of both sexes) - and that translates into a lot of lost business.